Engineering success in the Baja endurance race

January 20, 2016

Jonathan Lindfors Engineering students will battle both biting cold and much bigger universities when they head to the U.P. for the annual Blizzard Baja endurance race next month.

Sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers, Baja endurance races are a longstanding tradition for NMC’s Student Engineering Club. Michigan Technological University will host this year’s winter race on Feb. 13.

Teams design, build and race cars over a snow-covered course, competing for the most laps in four hours. In 2015, NMC was the only community college to participate and tied for sixth place. Historically the Hawk Owls have performed with the best of their four-year brethren, including a first place finish and a couple third places. With three of the four drivers returning this year, including Jonathan Lindfors (above) the team is feeling good about their chances.

Engineering student Andy Sleder drives the NMC Blizzard Baja car in a practice round earlier this month.“Everything does work. Now we’re being picky, trying to squeeze out every last drop of performance that we can,” said mechanical engineering student Drew Johnson, 32, one of the team’s veterans.

Since they’re re-using the 2015 car, they’ve had the advantage of driveability since the end of November, he said. Last year, the car wasn’t completely assembled until the end of January.

The “picky” adjustments include a new engine, a stripped-down and re-welded suspension (it broke during the 2015 race) and a new paint job, from purple to white.

“Maybe a little bit of camo, to blend into the snow, so the other teams can’t see us,” Johnson joked of the paint choice.

While the track is competitive, the race pits aren’t. Johnson said that teams pitch in to help each other with repairs when cars break down.

“We’re here to learn,” he said. “This is a very hands-on application of what we learn in class.”

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